There has been a comment on my earlier post about the things we as Christians should not fear, and I have been meaning to write a reply for some time.
What do you say to a mother who lives in constant fear of harm befalling her family? Especially when so many think God is the one who will bring these horrible things to happen. It seems that God promises to keep us from much harm and evil if we will stay very very close to Him. The problem is many people do not stay there.
There are two comments or questions in this one comment to address. First, what counsel do you offer a parent who is anxious about harm befalling her family? Second, does God cause harm, horrible things, or evil to happen to those who stray from Him?
The First Question
As a father of 7, I am well aware of the concerns of a parent for their child, in both physical and spiritual matters. My wife and I long ago came to a realization that has at least allowed us to not be anxious about this: They are not our children. They are God’s children.
Every promise God has made to you He has also made to your children. You are worth more than many sparrows, and so are your children (Mt 10:29-31). Furthermore, you can not even affect your own body (Mt 5:36) much less that of your children.
The Gospels are even more clear when you consider Christ’s discourse on taking care of your children:
Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:9-11)
Perhaps, when you are feeling like the well-being of your children is on your shoulders, read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) as if you were watching Jesus deliver the sermon directly to your children; listen to Him make the promises to them, knowing that God will care for them as much as He has promised to care for you.
The Second Question
I do not believe that God causes evil. We suffer the effects of sin, both consequences of our sin and those of others, that God allows. In fact, I believe that we suffer much fewer consequences than we by all rights ought to suffer because of God’s protection.
In Romans 5:12 Paul points out that ” just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men…” Death, as well as bad things and suffering, are all a consequence of sin, not a consequence of God.
A parent with a young child will tell the child not to touch a hot stove. If the child touches the stove and gets burned, was it the parent that caused the child’s hand to blister, or the natural consequence?
God sometimes allows us to suffer the consequences of our sins more fully than other times. We even suffer consequences of other people’s sins. But it is important to realize that these consequences, these bad things, are not something God dishes out, but that happened due to a consequence of sin.
As Christians, we also believe that there is an intelligent, malicious being that seeks our ruin. 1 Peter 5:8 warns that “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Despite what harm may come to us, every moment, every good thing, every blessing we enjoy is experienced by the grace and protection of God shielding us from this evil one. We do not enjoy what we can in life because of the laziness or ineptitude of the devil, but because of the power of God.
Consider the book of Job. Job is righteous, and yet it is the devil who causes harm to him and his family only after God allows it.
Thing then brings up the question – why does God allow us to suffer at all? Along those same lines, why do some people seem to suffer more than others? Why does it seem that it is the good that suffer more, in some cases?
The Scriptures teach us that God allows suffering, harm, and bad things to happen to those whom He loves. Hebrews 12:6-11 cites Proverbs 3:12:
“For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.” It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
In Romans 5:3-5 Paul counsels the church in Rome to “exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
God also allows good and bad things to happen to both those close to Him and those who reject Him – Matthew 5:45 points out that He makes it rain on both the just and the unjust. In the parable of the wheat and weeds, He allows the good and the bad to come up together until the final judgement (Matthew 13:24-30).
My point in all of this is that God may allow suffering for a consequence of our sin, as all sin (including the original sin of Adam and Eve) affects our lives negatively.
In addition to that, God allows those very close to Him and very far from Him to experience bad things and suffering, but for our good and benefit. He allows it so that we will rely on Him more and ourselves less – for this reason it is often that He will give us more than we can handle on our own, but not more than He can handle for us if we come closer to Him.
Just as I pointed out in response to the first question, He knows what is best for us and has promised to take care of each and every one of us, including our children. Do not be anxious about their welfare, for their own free will and relationship with God is not something you can control. The most we can do is to aid them in every way we can to develop a loving, trusting relationship with God.
There really isn’t enough room here to go into all the problems of pain and suffering, but hopefully this is encouraging for the many parents who face anxiety and fear over the welfare of their children.